Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baby Quiz!

Now that we've our 30 entry milestone, we thought it would be fun to post a little Baby Behavior Quiz!

1. True or False - Babies are born with 2 types of cries.

2. True of False - Babies in developed countries develop behaviors and achieve milestones faster than babies in developing countries.

3. How many diapers does the average baby go through in the first year of life?

4. True or False - Babies can copy facial movements within the first hour of life.

5. How old are babies when they can identify their native language from a foreign language?

We'll post the answers later this week. In the meantime, we'd love to see how you answered the questions.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two to Four weeks: A Whole New World

By Jennifer Banuelos

Even after several years of studying and working with infants (and having one of my own), I am still amazed at how quickly babies grow and develop. Within just a few weeks, they rapidly develop more skills to help them interact more effectively with the people around them. Although some of these skills won't be obvious to strangers, you will see your baby maturing right before your eyes!

By 4 weeks, babies' senses are sharpening. They are captivated by faces (especially of other babies) and love high contrast (like black & white) patterns. You can find board books with baby faces and/or contrasting patterns that babies enjoy. Newborns are calmed by the sight of the human face. Consider adding "face time" to your routine, maybe before and after feeding to help your baby's senses develop!

By one month, babies start to explore more objects by mouth, beginning to recognize different objects by their mouth-feel.

Cognitive Development
As mentioned in the last post, newborns are often unable to control their states or moods. By 4 weeks, babies may begin to have more predictable patterns of behavior. For example, some 1-month-old babies will start to spend more time looking around after feedings, become visibly drowsy after some social time and fall asleep without crying or becoming irritable. As your baby continues to become more aware of the world around her, you may notice that she gets fussy at the the same time every day, often in the evening. This may be due to over stimulation from a long day of play and may coincide with the time of day that parents get home from work, siblings arrive home from school, and dinner is being made. All the new sights, sounds, and smells are just too much for baby!

By 4 weeks, babies have learned to interact in special ways with different caregivers. For example, with her mother, a baby's body movements and facial expressions may be smooth and rhythmic, mimicking the mother's low-key, gentle demeanor. With her father, a baby's facial expressions may be more animated. Her arms and legs may become tense as if she has already learned that fathers are for playing!

Physical Development
By 3-4 weeks, your baby may lift her head briefly and possibly move it from side to side when she's lying on her stomach. This is a great time to start "Tummy Time." Placing your baby on her tummy (in a safe stimulating place) for a little while each day is important for her development. At first, your baby will be able to handle only a few minutes of tummy time, but over time, her muscles will strengthen and she will enjoy more time on her tummy. Remember - tummy time is only appropriate when your baby is awake. Babies should always sleep on their backs. Babies this age also begin learning that their arms and legs are attached to their bodies. Try gently moving her hands in front of her face so she can see and feel them at the same time.

The first weeks of your baby's life are hard work and you may forget (or be too tired) to notice the wonderous changes in your baby's abilities to communicate and move. Even bigger changes are ahead! We'll share more about infant development in upcoming posts.

Next time: We're going to give you a fun little quiz to see how much you know about babies!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Newborn development: Reflexes rule!

By Jennifer Goldbronn

Just yesterday, my daughter, now 2, and I were looking through her baby clothes and we came across a newborn-sized diaper. Amazement swept over me as I tried to imagine my toddler ever having fit into something so small. I clearly remembered how tiny and fragile she seemed the first time I held her in my arms; yet, they let us take her home from the hospital, her survival dependent on us, her new, rather clueless parents!

Newborns are not born fully developed, but they are equipped with a few essential survival skills. At first, newborns are very disorganized and uncoordinated. Their arm and leg movements may appear jerky for awhile. Their sleep patterns and behavior can be erratic, but bear in mind that a newborn has just left the warm, safe confines of his mother’s womb. Suddenly voices and sounds are louder, lights are brighter, and he is experiencing many new sensations and smells. The outside world takes some getting used to, but with the help of his caregivers, he will grow and develop, adapting to his new environment. Infant brain development depends a lot on what babies see, hear, touch, smell and taste.

Babies are born with all 5 senses, but some are more developed than others. Vision is probably the least developed sense; newborn babies can only see objects about 8-12 inches away. They prefer looking at bright shiny objects, or even better, at mom or dad’s face! When babies are in the quiet alert state , they are ready to interact with you and will respond to your voice or an object you show them. Newborns can also pick up their moms’ smell and distinguish it from others. Babies listen to their mothers’ voice even before they are born and will turn their heads toward the sound of it. Breastfeeding is the culmination of many sensations in an infant: taste, touch, smell and sight. The distance between a mother and her baby while breastfeeding just happens to be the exact distance a newborn can see! But a newborn needs to coordinate several motor skills to breastfeed successfully.

Babies are also born with a set of reflexes that help them react to the world around them. One example: newborns are born with the ability to move their arms and legs in a swimming motion and lift their heads when placed on their stomachs. There are 3 main sets of reflexes present at birth that are important for a baby’s survival:

Feeding: the rooting (head turns toward cheek that is stroked), sucking and swallowing reflexes allow infants to take in nourishment.
Breathing: the breathing reflex, hiccups, sneezes, and moving arms and legs when something is covering the face all protect an infant’s ability to get oxygen.
Body temperature: infants can maintain their body temperatures by shivering, crying, and tucking their legs into their bodies to stay warm. To cool off, they will automatically push off blankets and decrease their movement.

Brain Development and Sleep
Newborns spend 70-75% of their sleep time in active sleep. During active sleep, babies dream and their brains are growing and developing. While infants dream, blood flows to their brains and neural connections are made. Because it is so important for their development, newborns may dream 30 minutes before they fall into deeper sleep. Research also shows that newborns need to wake up to be healthy. They need to wake easily if they are too hot or too cold, hungry, lonely, or need a caregiver’s help.

Newborns are amazing creatures who grow and change daily. Parents can help their newborns grow and develop by holding them close, talking to them, and learning their babies’ cues so that they can better understand and respond to their babies’ needs. While their erratic behavior and sleep patterns makes caring for newborns extremely challenging, the newborn period lasts a very short time.

Thinking back, I realize that at times I was too sleep-deprived to revel in my daughter’s early development. One thing I can picture, as clearly as if it were yesterday, is the first time I held her to my chest as she instinctively rooted around for her mommy’s milk. Aided by her acute sense of smell, she finally found her target and latched on. Listening to the subtle sound of her suck and swallow I sighed with relief: maybe I could take care of this new little being.

Next time: 2-4 weeks: By this age babies are able to follow their parents’ voices and begin to develop a distinct temperament.

Key Resources: Berger (Worth 2003) The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence and Brazelton (De Capo 2006) Touchpoints: Birth to 3 years

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Coming Soon: A New Series of Posts about Babies’ Developmental Stages!

The votes are in from our online poll; our readers want to learn more about babies’ developmental stages! Next week we will start a series of posts on infant development in the first year of life. During their first year, babies grow and develop at an amazing rate; many babies triple their birth weight by the time they are a year old!

In the next few posts, we’ll discuss the wonders of infant development, predominantly cognitive (brain) and motor (physical) development. We’ll also talk about how babies’ development relates to infant feeding. There are many developmental milestones in baby’s first year: sitting up, rolling over, standing and walking are just a few. Do keep in mind that while we talk about development for different age groups, every baby is different! Also, for this series, we will be focusing on the healthy, term baby. Premature babies’ development is based on their due date, not their birth date. For more information about development in premature babies, go to http://www.marchofdimes.com/.

Here is a sneak preview of what we will be talking about over the next several weeks:

Newborn: Reflexes rule as babies try to adjust to the new world around them.

2-4 weeks: Babies develop a distinct temperament.

6-8 weeks: Babies gain more control over their arms & legs.

4-5 months: As babies’ can see longer distances, they become very distracted by the exciting world around them.

6-7 months: New faces and goodbyes may be disturbing to your baby at this age; be patient and give her time to adapt.

8-10 months: Babies are learning to stand and may pull up on furniture; the view from the top is very exciting!

12 months: The independent toddler starts to walk; the drive to master this important motor skill will keep her busy day and night!

Next time: Newborn development: Reflexes rule as babies try to adjust to the new world around them

Monday, September 14, 2009

From Cues to Conversation: How Babies Learn to Talk (Part 2)

In this post we will continue our discussion about the stages of language development* focusing on the stages that tend to occur in the second year (for stages that occur in year 1, see Part 1). Don't forget that the ages we list are averages and that there is a wide range of "normal." If your baby's development seems different than described here, it is not necessarily cause for concern. If you do have concerns, discuss them with your pediatrician.

13-18 months
As babies enter their second year, their vocabulary grows with them. Many babies this age will use about 50 words. Practice makes perfect and this stage is all about practice. Pay attention to your baby's speech and acknowledge him when he is trying out new words. Olivia is in this stage now. She gets very excited when we know what she is saying and repeat it back to her.

18 months
Around 18 months, babies have a vocabulary "spurt" because they start to learn 3 or more words per day! Even though they are learning words at a rapid pace, they may be using some words incorrectly. For example, Olivia calls everything that is round "ball." When she calls something, like an orange or a balloon, "ball" we just say, "that is round like a ball, you're right, but it is balloon. Can you say balloon?" and most of the time she tries to say balloon. Babies at this age may also be testing their own knowledge by asking the same question over and over. For example, your baby may bring you every round toy he can find, each time saying "ball?"

21 months
Between 15 and 24 months, many babies start to use 2-word sentences. This stage is hard because the order of the words is important. Despite the difficulty, babies usually get the order right. By this age, you will really be able to see the benefit of all the talking you did when he was younger!

24 months
By 2 years of age, babies begin using multi-word sentences, though most are only 2 or 3 words long. All of their hard work has paid off and they are finally able to understand what language is for. Most importantly, they are able to express themselves just like you!

Simple ways you can help your baby learn to talk
  • Start talking to your baby right away! You may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but with practice, it will feel more and more natural.

  • Responding to your baby will build his confidence in his abilities to communicate.

  • Reading books, singing, and listening to music is a good way to expose your baby to your language

  • Use Baby Signs with your baby before he is able to speak. Knowing just a few of the most common signs, like "please," "more," "all done," and "milk," can reduce frustration and help your baby communicate with you.

  • Provide positive feedback when your baby tries new words and use an encouraging tone when correcting him.

  • Keep in mind that not all babies learn at the same pace. Even if your 2-year-old only knows half as many words as your sister's 18-month-old, that's OK. If you do have concerns, talk to your baby's doctor.

  • Enjoy! It is amazing how much babies learn in the first 2 years of their lives.
*Bloom and Lenneberg (Bloom (1993) The transition from infancy to language: Acquiring the power of expression and Lenneberg (1967) Biological Foundations of Language.

Next time: The votes are in! We'll start a series of posts on babies' developmental stages.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

From Cues to Conversation: How Babies Learn to Talk

By Jennifer Banuelos

In past posts, we've explained how newborns communicate with their caregivers to get what they need (See Baby Behavior Basic Part 3), but we haven't discussed how communication with your baby changes as he gets older. Until now!

First we must remind you that all babies are different! Despite these differences, babies all over the world share a similar pattern of language development. In this post, we'll go over the steps of language development during the first year described by the experts (year 2 will come next time). It is fun to watch your baby's communication skills expand. When you respond to your baby's cues, motions, and words, you encourage and enhance his learning. Remember, the ages listed here are just averages. There is a wide range of "normal." If your baby's development seems different than described here, it is not necessarily cause for concern. If you do have concerns, discuss them with your pediatrician.

Newborns use body movements, facial expressions, and crying to express their needs. At this stage, your baby's 'language' is based on reflexes, but young babies do enjoy the sound of human voices more than any other sound. Newborns prefer high-pitched, simple, repetitive speech, which is often referred to as baby-talk or motherese.

2 months
By 2 months, babies make a range of meaningful noises, like cooing, fussing, crying, and laughing. When your baby is at this stage, responding to his needs quickly and consistently will provide him with a sense of security and the desire to continue learning new communication skills.

3-6 months
Babies at this stage like making new sounds, like squeals, growls, croons, trills, and vowel sounds. They still love the sound of your voice and at this stage, they may be able to respond with sounds of their own! My husband and I have been talking to Olivia since the day she was born. We didn't even realize how often we talked to her until someone pointed it out to us. It may seem strange to say "Let's go in your room and change your diaper" or "it's time to eat" to a tiny baby, but before long, it becomes routine. You can start by reading to your baby or singing songs to him. Once you see how happy he is when he hears your voice, you may find yourself talking to him more often.

6-10 months
This stage is when the real fun begins - when babies begin babbling and using consonants and vowels together. This is a great time to start using "Baby Signs," or hand gestures similar to those used by people who are hearing impaired. The baby in the picture above is giving the sign for "please." Baby Signs were popularized by researchers here at UC Davis, who have found benefits to teaching babies to use signs (see http://www.blogger.com/www.babysigns.com for more information about the benefits). It is best to use the signs while saying the words out loud. We started out using only 2 signs with Olivia - "more" (tapping finger tips together) and "all done" (moving hand, palm down and fingers straight, from side to side). There are numerous books and web sites about baby signs and some communities even have classes available for parents, but you don't really need to buy anything to get started. You can develop your own signs or even watch for signs that your baby develops himself. By starting to use signs between 6 and 10 months, you will be helping your baby get to the next stage!

10-12 months
Around this age, babies start to make specific, meaningful sounds. They begin using the same gestures to communicate, which is why the previous stage is a good time for you to start using Baby Signs! Studies have shown that infants whose mothers' are highly responsive develop language more quickly.

12 months
Baby's first word is usually spoken at the end of the first year, although many babies reach this stage earlier or later. Motor and language development tend to compete, so a baby who is learning to walk may not be concentrating on learning to talk and vice versa. Also, the first word (or the first few words) may not be very clear and may only be recognizable to the parents. That is just fine. It is important to remember that language development is not a race and it will not help to push your baby to say things correctly.

*Bloom and Lenneberg (Bloom (1993) The transition from infancy to language: Acquiring the power of expression and Lenneberg (1967) Biological Foundations of Language).

Next time: We'll talk about babies' language development in his second year.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Repetition in Baby's Daily Life: The Power of Routines

As human beings, we rely on our daily biological rhythms to know when to wake, to work, to eat, and to sleep. These rhythms are controlled by internal things (like hormones) and external things (like light/dark cycles and alarm clocks). Babies are born with somewhat "flexible" rhythms that are influenced by the environment as they grow and develop. This flexibility allows babies to adapt to their parents' world. Most parents don't believe it, but they have enormous influence over their babies' daily rhythms. Routines are an important tool to help parents and babies get in synch.

Right away, I need to clarify that routines are not the same thing as "schedules" that might be forced on babies. Routines refer to patterns of actions, doing the same thing in the same order (as in dance or gymnastic routines). Schedules usually refer to actions that are dictated by the clock rather than the baby's needs.

Predictable daily routines help babies develop rhythms that are just like mom and dad's. As a side effect, they also help babies build trust, social skills, and self-control. Most parents instinctively settle into routines at bedtime, bathtime, and when feeding their babies. Because babies love repetition (see our last post), routines can help babies feel calm and secure. For example, let's pretend that your 3-month-old shows signs of being drowsy. You might take the following steps to lead the baby gently to sleep.

1) Hold the baby close and start using the same words over and over to tell the baby that it's time for nap.

2) Change the baby's diaper and clothes, close to the place where she takes her nap, maybe while singing a special nap time song.

3) Put her down on her back to sleep and gently rub her tummy while still singing or saying the same words over and over.

4) As the repetition lulls her into feeling more and more sleepy, you can step away and let her fall asleep on her own.

To reinforce a routine, you need to repeat these steps before every nap. Routines can be used for most of baby's daily activities. Once babies are older than 2 1/2 to 3 months, they start to develop their own rhythms and even settle into their own loose schedules, sleeping and eating at similar times each day.

I'll be honest, routines won't always make your baby sleepy or happy. But if you keep using them with your baby, your routines eventually will become familiar "dances" and you'll both know all the steps. Routines can be especially helpful for busy toddlers, but that's another post...

Next time: We'll share some fun ways to communicate with older babies.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Happiness is No Surprise: Why Babies Love Repetition

Babies are born hardwired to want to make sense of the world around them. Imagine how confusing all the new sounds, sights, and smells must be for newborns and young babies. Fortunately, babies work hard from birth to tune into what is going on, give cues to signal their needs, and learn as much as they can before they get too tired and fall asleep. As babies get older, they broaden their learning with experimentation, tasting, touching, smelling, pushing, squeezing, and dropping everything they can. Parents get to participate in these experiments, sometimes by bringing new toys or picking up the dropped spoon again and again. In just a few short weeks and months, babies are able to see and anticipate patterns in actions and that's when the fun really begins.

Have you ever wondered why babies love to listen to you read the same books over and over again, why they laugh hysterically when you play peek-a-boo, or squeal with joy when daddy pretends to be a tickle-monster? All of these activities and games require repetitive patterns of action that end with a predictable conclusion. Babies just LOVE to predict what is about to happen to them.

Let's say your baby is quiet, alert, and ready to play. You can show her a toy, move it or shake it close to her face, then take it and tickle her tummy with it. If she's old enough, she'll smile and maybe even laugh. Now, follow the same sequence again. Show the toy, shake it gently, and tickle her belly. Now your baby will really laugh! Do it again and she may laugh when you are gently shaking the toy. She'll laugh and kick her legs in anticipation of your tickling her. She'll want you to play your new little game several times before she'll tire of it. When you play simple repetitive games with your baby and read books the same way again and again, you're helping your baby joyfully make sense of her new world.

So, when you don't think you can read Goodnight Moon one more time without going insane or you wonder why your baby wants you to put the blue blocks (not the yellow blocks!) in the pail 8 times in a row, just keep in mind that your repetitive actions are helping your baby learn and develop. Don't worry, soon enough Goodnight Moon will stay on the shelf. But you know what? You'll find that you miss it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nighttime Waking and the Older Infant

After the long nights of the first 6 to 8 weeks, many new parents start to believe that they will never sleep more than 4 hours again. Fortunately, babies do slowly and steadily lengthen the time they sleep at night. By 6 months, many infants are sleeping 6 hours at a stretch. While 6 hours would never have been considered a full nights’ sleep before the baby was born, the long stretch seems heavenly to the long suffering parents of newborns. As the weeks go by, parents settle in to their new, somewhat more rested, lives.

And then something strange happens.

Just as you thought you might be able to make it through the day without aching for a nap, your little darling starts waking again around 8 or 9 months of age. Sometimes the baby wakes screaming in distress, uninterested in feeding, only calmed by the warmth of your arms. Sometimes you find your baby sitting up or standing in her crib calling out for you and you find her wide awake and ready to play. You may turn to friends, family, books, or magazines for reasons and solutions. In this post, we’ll go over some of the most common reasons why older infants wake during the night.

1. Changes in routine
For children, routines are essential to help them organize their lives and feel safe. Bedtime routines can help infants move easily through alert states to sleep. Starting day care, taking vacations, and visiting grandma’s house may result in big differences in the bedtime routine. For many babies, these changes result in waking. While some changes in routine are to be expected, try to keep the patterns as similar as you can. For example, while at grandma’s house, read the same book, sing the same song, and play whatever night time games you played at home. But be prepared that your baby may wake, at least until you are back home or the new routine is established.

2. Illness and discomfort such as with teething or sinus congestion
Just like adults, children will wake when they are sick and uncomfortable. Sudden waking may be followed by a fever or other signs of illness. Teething is also likely to disturb your baby’s sleep. Check with your doctor to figure out the cause of your baby’s discomfort and ask about safe ways to make your child feel more comfortable. Fortunately, teething doesn’t last forever.

3. Learning new physical skills
As children get older, they are driven to move and practice new found skills like sitting up, standing, and walking, over and over again. Unfortunately, these drives can be so powerful that they’ll want to practice during the night as well as the day. Pulling up to a stand during the day often is met by smiling and clapping from adults. Babies think they should get the same congratulations at 4 a.m. While you can’t stop all physically driven waking, encouraging your child to safely practice his new found skills during the day can help.

4. Separation anxiety
Around the same time that children are able to crawl and walk away from you, they develop a powerful need not to go very far. Being away from you becomes a source of anxiety for babies between 7 to 8 months of age. “Separation anxiety” remains strong for most children until they are about 18 months of age, becoming less intense as they become preschoolers. For some children, this anxiety is a problem both day and night. Routines and quick reassurance can go a long way in helping babies back to sleep.

5. Growth spurts
Older infants sometimes have growth spurts, especially when they are recovering from illness. Babies often eat less when they are sick and they need to “catch up” for all those lost calories. During periods of rapid growth and recovery, older infants may need to be fed more frequently for a few days. If they don’t get enough to eat during the day, they may wake to feed at night. By watching for hunger cues, parents can help babies get more of the calories they need during the day. If your older baby suddenly starts waking up for feedings at night and the new pattern lasts for more than a few days, check in with your doctor or lactation consultant to make sure that feedings are going well.

Next time: We’ll talk about why babies love to do the same things over and over and over….